By Maz McCoy

“Louisa! Louisa”
“Stop ya hollerin’ and I’ll be there in a minute!” A few moments later a large plump woman entered the room carrying a tray on which she balanced a steaming cup of coffee and a sandwich. “I brought your lunch.” She placed the tray on the table beside the old man, then took his hand guiding it first to the cup, then to the sandwich. “You got it?”
“Don’t burn yourself.”
“I don’t plan to.” He looked up at her with vacant eyes. “How’re the boys doing?”
“You keeping an eye on them?”
“Yes, although they really don’t need it.”
“They’re from the Home, they need watching.”
“Just because they’re orphans don’t make ‘em thieves.”
“The last two were.”
“Well these aren’t. Jed’s a real sweety and Han is a bright thing, always asking questions.”
“What sort of questions?”
“Where do we keep the money? Is it locked away?”
“I’m joking. He wanted to know why you can’t see and if there was anything he could do to help you.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I told him to come talk to you.”
“Louisa! You know I don’t talk to the hired…”
“They’re boys. They’re clearing the garden so you can sit out there on a summer’s day. I reckon you can talk to ‘em.” She headed back to the door.
“Louisa! Louisa!” She didn’t reply. “Darn woman!”
There was a knock on the door. “Excuse me, sir, may we come in?”
“Who is it?”
“Hannibal Heyes and Jed Curry.” The boys stepped into the room. “We’re from the orphanage.”
“Fixing up your garden,” the small blond boy added.
They remained quiet, studying the old man sitting in a chair near the window. He reached out a hand locating his coffee.
Jed stepped forward. “Here, let me.”
“I can manage!”
“Didn’t say you couldn’t, just wanted to help.”
“You’re very forthright.”
“He means you speak before you think,” Han said, stepping forward. “Mister March, we just wanted to say hello and offer to help if we can.”
“Which one are you?”
“Hannibal Heyes.”
“Come closer.” Heyes stepped next to March’s chair. The man reached out his hands and Heyes backed away. “Stand still!” Heyes stood and March reached up and touched Heyes’ face. “You have interesting features.”
“Does that mean he’s ugly?” Jed asked with a snirt.
“No, young man it does not.” He dropped his hands and beckoned to Jed. “You next.”
Jed swallowed and took Heyes’ place. March gently felt the boy’s face.
“What can you tell?” Jed prompted.
“Hmm, you’re very…”
It was Heyes’ turn to laugh. March turned away.
“Can I ask something?”
“You just did, Hannibal.”
“Well, yeah but, can I ask another one?”
“Go ahead.”
“What made you blind?”
“It’s all right. I’ll answer that. I was very ill as a child. I recovered but my sight was gone.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It was a long time ago; I was younger than you are now. I’ve learned to live with it.”
“Is there anything we can do to help you?” Jed asked.
“Can either of you read?”
“We both can but I’m better at it,” Heyes informed him.
“Good. Can you see a bookcase?”
It was hard to miss it. “Yes, sir.”
“Choose a book then sit and read to me.”
Heyes beamed. “Yes, sir!”
“What about me?” Jed wondered.

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